By Stephen Leonard
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5
The fourth week of Advent contemplates the mystery of all ages. In my mind and numerous others, God becoming man is simply the greatest mystery the Universe has ever seen. The incarnation in which the Second Person of the Triune God, the Son of God, took on human flesh and became a man is the mystery that surpasses all mysteries, bar none.
The first chapter of the gospel of John explains it best: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1 and 14)
That God would choose to become man is a huge question for you and for us and an unfathomable mystery for any inquisitive thinking person. The only reason that comes close to explaining why God would do this is the extraordinary and lavish love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But even such great love is a grand mystery; we simply cannot comprehend it. Yet, God’s unvarnished love was the overwhelming reason for Jesus Christ “leaving the courts of heaven” and wedding Himself to human flesh for all of the future and infinite eternity.
We can admire it; we can be in awe of it; we can be astounded by it, but it is still above any of our capacities to fully comprehend. “His ways are far above our ways,” Scripture explains. We can observe the mystery of the incarnation through the lens of Scripture and in that sense “known” by us, just as we truly “know” our living Savior in heart and mind by faith; but the 2nd Person of the Trinity becoming a man, while yet remaining fully God, simply cannot be fathomed.
The Apostle Paul refers to it as “the mystery of Christ.” And then Paul also speaks of “the mystery of Christ in us”; perhaps the second greatest mystery. How does God place Himself in human flesh? And then how does God enter into fallen man? This is what Paul calls “the hope of glory in you,” in the Scripture’s own words, as it talks about THE great hope of your own eternal future.
For the Son of God, who was given a human name directly by an Angel to Joseph, the name of Jesus, that He would be miraculously seeded into Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit, is a mystery to human science, though not the Almighty God! Yet so it is, and the Word of God has clearly revealed this to us, so that we might know the ultimate blessing which comes because of it. Man’s fallen human nature compared with Jesus Christ’s human nature of “the perfect Lamb of God” explains the reason for Jesus having to be born of a virgin.
Therefore, we are told in Luke the inexplicable story of Mary being with child though still a virgin, giving birth in a cattle stall in Bethlehem of Judea, wrapping her infant in “swaddling clothes,” and placing Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. This is the truth we are told, and which we believe, of what transpired two millennia ago. We still celebrate today, many Christmas’ after, and indeed continue to celebrate among myriads of peoples all over the world.
And the lesser, but still great mystery of being told with absolute proof that Bethlehem Ephrathah, distinguishing it from the other Bethlehem, was prophesied as the exact birthplace of Jesus as many as 700 years prior to its fulfillment.
Yet, Christmas is no mere local event. Christmas is celebrated worldwide! And we have the great joy by faith to acknowledge once again in 2021, Christmas truly is, no matter if some people do not believe its supposition. It rests in fact and not in made-up fairy tales. It is the greatest mystery and the greatest truth. For the Christ child and Messiah is truly the only “way, truth, and life.”
“What child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!”
(1st verse of William Chatterton Dix’s Carol, “What Child Is This?” 1865)